Despite turmoil in Washington, the U.S. economy saw significant growth in February, with the unemployment rate dropping to the lowest level we've seen since President Obama took office. A closer look at the report reveals this positive trend is also taking hold in parts of the country that were hit hard by the sluggish economy, including minorities.
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE FALLS FOR LATINOS AND BLACK MEN
The minority community has felt the Great Recession's impact in a big way. In August 2011, the unemployment rate shot up to 16.7% among African-Americans. Latino unemployment peaked at 13.1% in November 2010. Both those communities are now seeing those rates fall.
The unemployment rate for African-American males dropped by half a percent since last month. It now stands at 12.9%. It's dropped more than 2% in just the last year. The overall Latino unemployment rate dropped nearly 2% since this time last year, too. (African-American women, however, saw their unemployment rate tick up slightly in the last month. Yet it hasn't gone up as much as rates have gone down for their male counterparts or Latinos.)
LEAST EDUCATED AMERICANS ARE GETTING BACK TO WORK
While the unemployment rate for those with bachelor's degrees has remained low for much of the recession (in this latest report it's only 3.8%). The less educated part of our workforce felt a much stronger impact, but in February the unemployment rate for those with no high school diploma fell to 11.2% in February, down from 12% in the prior month. A year ago it was 14.8%.
The unemployment rate for those with only a high school degree also decreased since last month, dropping 0.2% down to 7.9%. This is a 1.3% drop from last year. For those with some college or an associate's degree, the employment rate went down by 0.3%, dropping to 6.7%.
MORE PROGRESS CAN STILL BE MADE
All this movement in the right direction has come in spite of government cut backs. While the private sector added nearly 250,000 jobs in the last month, the country gained fewer jobs because the public sector lost 10,000 jobs. The country only added 2.23 million jobs in the last year, even though the private sector added 2.33 million, because we lost 100,000 public sector jobs. We could reverse that.
The president’s proposed jobs plan, the American Jobs Act, could add more public sector jobs by increasing funding for infrastructure projects and spending more to keep teachers, police officers, and firefighters employed. Moody's top economist Mark Zandi said it would likely add 1.9 million jobs and grow the economy by 2%. If Republicans in Congress recognize this opportunity for growth and decide to pass that plan or a similar one, public sector jobs could start growing, too.